- Buyer's Guide
10 Essentials to Pack in Your City Laptop Backpack
I still remember the start of my freshman year of college. The process of getting my dorm, clothes, a laptop and a new backpack in order for the start of the year. I ended up choosing an early Incase backpack to carry my gear to class and around the city.
Fast-forward a few years. While I’m no longer in college, I’m now carrying a similar Incase backpack, the Incase City Backpack, as my daily carry, courtesy of our sponsor.
What makes a backpack for city?
First, the bag needs to have good organization. I tend to use the same bag day in and day out which means I keep a lot of basics in the bag at all times. I appreciate when I can stow all of these little things efficiently throughout the bag and get to them quickly, when I need them.
Second, I need a bag that has a slim profile. I’m often getting on and off trains and really appreciate when I can slip through a crowded station without my bag snagging on anything or hitting anyone.
Adding to this point, a good city backpack also has minimal looks. Trimmed down aesthetics lend better to changing outfits, be it shirts or blazers or splashes of color. While the Incase City Backpack does come in brighter colors, I opted for black, the ultimate chameleon.
The same goes for the silhouette of a pack. A smooth, simple one is my preference. The more side pockets stick out or front pockets bulge outward, the less chameleon-like it becomes. All of the pockets on the Incase City Backpack, for example, are slim and discreet, with a subtle horizontal pocket formation and a pair of tucked away pockets near the shoulder straps for a phone and cash.
And when you’re commuting for college or work, then you’re carrying tech. Laptop, almost always. And smaller things like an iPhone, iPad and headphones etc. So protection and padding for your tech is key. ‘Protection’ can come in many forms, but generally a good mix would feature a suspended and well-padded laptop compartment, water-resistant zippers or storm guard flaps, and fleece-lined pockets for your phone.
Finally because I’m often walking throughout town, a good city backpack needs to carry well. This means that the bag itself is comfortable on my back and that the contents of the bag aren’t in a jumbled mess at the bottom of the pack. At 21L the Incase City Backpack carries extremely well thanks to its pocketing layout and generously padded back and shoulder straps.
With these points in mind, what do I actually carry in my city laptop backpack on a daily basis, to keep life easy, fun and smooth? Here’s the list.
Jabra Elite Active 65t Headphones
Personally I don’t like the bulk of over-the-ear headphones (both in my bag and on my head), but still appreciate very good sound quality. The Jabra Elite Active 65t headphones provide that amazing sound quality in a miniscule package.
What’s more, these headphones provide some of the best call quality of any wireless in-ear headphones. Perfect for taking calls on the go. When not in use I keep these in their charging case tucked into the side pockets of the City Backpack for easy access.
LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive
Granted most of my documents, photos and projects are up somewhere in the cloud, but jumping between the office, coffee shops and home I still like to keep a physical backup of most things. I’ve used various iterations of the LaCie Rugged External Hard Drives for years for perfect results. And, besides being very durable, they look pretty good sitting on a shelf as well.
The James Brand The Benton Pen
I’ve been eyeing the EDC equipment The James Brand has been designing from the beginning. However it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with using a pen that isn’t cheap and disposable. But after actually feeling The Benton in my hand, not just reading reviews about how well it’s made, and actually writing with it consider me a convert. The Benton is faithfully holstered in the secondary compartment of the City Backpack.
Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes
If there was just one essential in this bag, the Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes would be it. Aptly named as well. These things are lifesavers and there’s always a few kicking around in the City Backpack. I find them perfect for freshening up when stepping into the office, stepping off a packed subway train, or before heading out to grab drinks after work. And, like all Ursa Major products, they’re about as natural as skincare products can be.
Yeti Daytrip Lunch Bag
While I almost always bring my lunch to work, too often it ends up warm and crushed. No more since I started packing lunch with the Yeti Daytrip. This lunch box, or perhaps more appropriately labeled as a cooler, easily keeps my food cool through lunch and even dinner if I’m working late. After lunch it folds down to be easily stowed in the main compartment of the City Backpack.
Topo Designs Accessory Bags
One of my least favorite hobbies? Wrangling USB cords and keeping track of stray SD cards. Even with a bag with as much pocketing as the Incase City Backpack, I still like to keep this mess of wires under control. A few of these accessory bags and that snake pit is under control. I’ll keep these pouches stashed in the front zippered pocket of the bag.
Blunt Metro Umbrella
Anyone who wears a raincoat to work faces two problems. First, while my top stays dry, all the rain runs off my jacket onto my pants. And second, my backpack still gets soaked.
Enter the Blunt Umbrella. Super compact, ultra strong so it won’t get blown around in gusty streets, yet big enough to keep me and the City Backpack dry. When it’s not raining this umbrella is small enough to lay flat at the bottom of the City Backpack which I really appreciate.
Nomad PowerPack and Kevlar USB Cable
While there’s an infinite amount of power packs out there, I like the Nomad PowerPack for its dual USB A and USB C ports and durable build. Couple this with Nomad’s new USB cables which are reinforced with Kevlar and I’ve got long-lasting power for days at a time. I like to keep both in the front pocket of the bag for ongoing charging.
Matador Transit Tote Bag
While the Incase City Backpack can easily fit all of my daily essentials, I often need more space for an after-work grocery run. For this I like to carry the Matador Transit Tote Bag.
Bellroy Work Folio A4
As far as I’m concerned, no other bag company does pocketing as well as Incase. The way everything is laid out and how accessible it is, is like a masterclass in pocket design. That said, my style of packing is to have all of my work-related items together. And for that, I rely on Bellroy’s Work Folio A4, which I keep in the secondary compartment.
Being able to carry full-sized paper (commonly referred to as A4 by the rest of the world), all my notes, business cards, and other work odds and ends in one package that effortlessly fits into the City Backpack is a match made in heaven. The Bellroy Work Folio provides that extra bit of organization so I can show up and always be ready to go.
This article was developed in partnership Incase